Belfast Telegraph

Jonny Evans: Manchester United are in my heart but I'm striving for Leicester victory at Old Trafford

Foot in: Leicester ace Jonny Evans tackles Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard
Foot in: Leicester ace Jonny Evans tackles Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard

By Steven Beacom

For Jonny Evans, there will always be a part of him that sees Old Trafford as home, but the Northern Ireland defender will be doing all he can to earn an away win there with Leicester City tomorrow.

The Foxes enter the Premier League fixture against Manchester United with momentum and optimism. They are third after back-to-back victories and there is growing belief that Brendan Rodgers' side could gatecrash the top six.

In contrast, the Red Devils are in eighth and haven't won since the opening day of the season. It's a far cry from the days when Evans was lifting titles under Sir Alex Ferguson. Many United fans remain amazed that the Ulsterman was allowed to leave for West Brom four years ago.

He has been back to Old Trafford since, watching as well as playing. Asked if it stirs up emotions, the 31-year-old admitted: "Yeah. I spent so long there and it was the club I supported growing up and all that. I still go back and I see people and I feel like I've never been away in a sense. I always go back with fondness.

"I've been to watch a couple of games since, European games and that. I love going back, but I will be going back with Leicester hoping we can get the three points.

"The manager, Brendan Rodgers, is trying to instil a belief in us and we are getting that as we go along. We will go with desire and belief that we can win the game."

On working with countryman Rodgers, who is earning rave reviews for how the Foxes are playing, Evans added: "It's been great. He is always trying to coach us and teach us and, hopefully, improve us as players and, more importantly, as a team, and I think you can see we are doing that."

As for the prospects of finishing in the top six, Evans said: "A few people were talking about it towards the end of last season and a few more people are saying it now after the start we've had.

"We know with that comes a different sort of expectation and pressure and it's up to us to be able to rise to that and follow it through. We have belief.

"There will be times in the season when we'll have bad results and difficult results and it will be up to us how we respond. I think everyone has ambition and that comes from the chairman right down and everyone working in the club to be as good as we can be and push to try and take the club to a new level.

"We are unbeaten, and that gives you confidence. We have had spells in games when we have played well. Our last game against Bournemouth was as good a performance that we have had under the manager. We were excellent in that game and in the second half against Chelsea.

"In other games we maybe haven't played as well, but we are still growing into the season and we have put ourselves in a good position to have a good season. It's up to us to maintain those standards and keep going."

Evans and his team-mates will come face-to-face with former Leicester hero Harry Maguire, who in moving to United in the summer became the most expensive defender in the world.

"I think it was a move that made sense," said Evans.

"Obviously we are disappointed that we lost such a good player. I think with the money, Man United really wanted him and he wanted to go. I've said before, I think him and Man United are a perfect match and he's exactly what they need at this moment in time."

Quizzed on why Maguire and United were a 'perfect match', the Northern Ireland hero replied: "I think he has the personality for it and he has the qualities for it. He is a player who will go into the team and is a fans' favourite wherever he goes.

"Harry is a bit of a cult hero and the way he plays and the personality that he shows on the pitch is exactly what United need."

• Leicester midfielder James Maddison knows he is not entitled to England caps, according to his club manager Rodgers.

The 22-year-old was expected to make his senior debut against Kosovo this week after missing out during the Three Lions' 4-0 victory against Bulgaria on Saturday.

However, he was left on the bench at St Mary's.

It was the second time Maddison had been called up by Gareth Southgate, having made the squad for the Nations League fixtures with Spain and Croatia last October. He did not play then either.

"I spoke to James and he really enjoyed his time away with England, even though he didn't play. He's a young player and he's been doing great and playing well, and he understands he is not entitled to anything," said Rodgers.

"He is part of a young, talented squad of players and not every player that goes there can play. He is determined to carry on working hard and playing well.

"He will hope with his talent that he will get some games with England in the future if he keeps on playing well for Leicester.

"I had him in the day after he returned and it was a case of bringing him in and sitting him down and seeing how he was feeling.

"This is where the hard work begins because now he's got to stay in the squad.

"He has to take his time and do the best he can for Leicester and then it is up to the England coaches.

"I'm sure in time he will show he has the attributes to play for England. He plays with a lovely arrogance but he's not like that off the field."

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